A fax machine is a device that transmits a copy of a document to another fax machine using a phone line. Businesses have used fax machines to transmit documents for decades, and despite the ubiquity of e-mail as a means of sending documents, many offices continue to have fax machines available. Although using a fax machine to transmit documents has many disadvantages, the advantages keep many people using them.
Few methods of document transmission can beat a fax machine in terms of instant gratification. Fax machines send short documents in mere seconds, and when the transmission is complete, the recipient has a physical copy of the document in hand, which they can immediately use to take notes or bring to a meeting. While e-mail is also instant, making a physical copy depends on the recipient having a printer configured. Not having the correct software installed to open the document can also create problems.
Time and Date Stamps
Most fax machines print automatic time and date stamps on each page. This feature can be useful for verifying that you sent a sensitive document to someone on time.
Automatic Document Feeding
Fax machines generally have automatic document feeders. This allows a person to queue several pages for faxing, dial a number and go to work on another task. For the sender, a fax machine can actually be less time-consuming than e-mail.
Low Image Quality
A scanner can create photorealistic copies of documents at extremely high resolutions. Fax machines, though, generally copy documents using black only–no shades of grey. As a result, fax machines are not ideal for sending low-contrast images. However, the low image quality generally does not diminish the readability of text.
Phone Line and Long Distance Charges
If you want to have a fax machine available full-time to receive transmissions, you will probably need to pay for the installation of a dedicated phone line. Fax machines can also incur long distance charges if you send documents to someone who does not have a toll-free number. E-mail and Internet access, on the other hand, are charges that you most likely pay already.
While fax machines are extremely fast for sending short documents, the several seconds required to send each page can begin to add up when sending longer ones. You may also experience other problems, such as the recipient's fax machine running out of paper in the middle of a transmission. E-mail is generally a superior option for very long documents.
When a person receives a document via e-mail, they have the option of printing it or viewing it on the screen. A fax machine always prints documents, which are often read once and discarded–or not read at all, in the case of unsolicited advertisements. In this sense, fax machines can waste paper.